Our Casino Economy

It doesn’t matter that the house always wins because hey, you might get lucky.

The Casino Next Door

How slot machines snuck into the mall, along with money laundering, bribery, shootouts, and billions in profits

By Felix Gillette, Business Week

April 21, 2011, 5:00PM EST

Jacks is about the size of a neighborhood deli. There is a bar next door and a convenience store around the corner. Inside, jumbo playing cards decorate the walls. The room is filled with about 30 desktop computers. Here and there, men and women sit in office chairs and tap at the computers. They are playing “sweepstakes” games that mimic the look and feel of traditional slot machines. Rows of symbols-cherries, lucky sevens, four-leaf clovers-tumble with every click of the mouse.

It’s a high-margin, cash-rich business. According to Mecham, each terminal at a thriving cafe typically grosses $1,000 to $5,000 per month. A medium-size business with, say, 100 machines would therefore gross around $250,000 a month, or in the ballpark of $3 million a year. All of which would suggest that in less than a decade, Internet sweepstakes cafes in the U.S. have grown into a collective $10 billion to $15 billion industry.

Customers are easy to find. Mecham says sweepstakes cafes cater primarily to two demographics: the old and the poor. “Lower-income customers are coming in because they’re bad at math,” he says. “It’s like the lottery. The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. They’re coming in to try and catch a big break.”

Are you sure this place is honest?

Honest? As honest as the day is long!


  1. don’t-cha-know… winning the Lotto.

    That and staring in your own reality tv show with millions of fans.


    We’re doomed I tell ya.

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